Monday, January 21, 2008

Israeli Jews: No Voice for Diaspora Jews on Status of Jerusalem

Hana Levi Julian

The vast majority of Jewish Israelis believe that Diaspora Jews have no right to make decisions about Jerusalem, according to a new poll commissioned by the Shalem Center’s Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies. The issue is one that hit a raw nerve among American Jews during the Middle East talks held at Annapolis in November, where discussions focused on getting final status talks underway for Israeli concessions to the Palestinian Authority. The status of Jerusalem is a central issue in the negotiations.

According to the poll, an overwhelming number of Israelis oppose the idea of ceding parts of the capital to the Palestinian Authority. Only 5 percent of respondents said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has the right to divide Jerusalem between Israel and the PA.

Only 16 percent of the 500 respondents said Jews who reside outside Israel should have input into decisions regarding the future of the Holy City.

Twice that number agreed that all Israeli Jews have the right to contribute their views to such a decision. Even more, 34 percent believe that all Israeli citizens, Jewish and gentile, have the right to decide Jerusalem’s fate.

The findings were released Sunday at the Herzliya Conference held at the Knesset.

President Shimon Peres also addressed the issue in his speech to the conference Sunday night, saying any decision on concessions to the PA must be approved by the grassroots population.

In a speech that appeared to call for a referendum on the negotiations, Peres said any decision by the government should be brought to the people.

“This will allow the people to truly choose,” he said. “And this is the same for the opposition. It is not enough to criticize the conducting of negotiations; one must also present an alternative.

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